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Chapter 4 - Doing Fieldwork
Terms in this set (25)
Why are archeologists compulsive about field notes?
One a site is excavated it cannot be dug again. So recording, drawing, and photographic evidence about an artifact is very important while trying to leave portions un-excavated for others who may have better questions or other methods.
An artifact's location relative to a system of spatial data collection. The most important thing about an artifact. Is essential to recording context.
The relationship of an artifact, ecofact or feature to other artifacts/ecofacts, features and geological strata in a site.
What did the argument over antiquity of humanity in the new world come down to?
A geologic period from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago, which was characterized by multiple periods of extensive glaciation.
From Latin, meaning "in position"; the place where an artifact, ecofact, or feature was found during excavation or survey.
Relative and Hierarchical Location
Locations are hierarchical in that the artifact's provenience is simultaneously a particular country, a state/province within a country, a city in that state, site in a city, excavation unit in the site, and particular positions/orientations within the level.
They are relative because one measures the position relative to spatial system, using UTM grids or site specific formats; the key being to use a procedure that allows for the reconstruction of a great deal of information/what was found in the site.
A small initial excavation to determine a site's potential for answering a research question.
Quick, dirty because they're excavated "blind" and performed by maintaining 3D control, recording x and y axes (horizontal) and z axis (vertical) and digging square holes.
What are the three preservation conditions that present archaeologists with challenges and opportunities?
Lacking moisture, lacking oxygen (anaerobic), and lacking warmth, along with microorganisms.
What factors besides preservation that affect site excavation?
Other factors include the site's depth, time and financial constraints, accessibility, and perhaps most important, the research questions being pursued.
What is the most important thing with excavation techniques?
They must record an artifacts context as precisely as possible.
Why are test pits somewhat quick and dirty?
They must be excavated blind and often record only minimal levels of provenience.
The branch of maritime archaeology that deals specifically with ships, cargoes, maritime technology, and trade by sea.
Growing field that shares the same goals and principles of excavation as terrestrial archaeology, underwater archaeology operates under unique constraints.
Depth and water temperature dictate how long excavators can work, and strong currents may limit excavation to periods of ebb tides. Underwater archaeology is often very expensive, especially if it requires a research vessel.
The point zero, a fixed reference used to keep control over the location of artifacts, features, and so on, on a dig; usually controls both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of provenience.
Today, the datum would be placed many meters off the site in an area that would remain undisturbed by construction, natural processes, or future excavation. The datum would be an aluminum or brass cap marked with the site's Smithsonian or other identifying number, set in concrete or on top of a long piece of reinforcement bar driven into the ground
The structure produced by the deposition of geological
and/or cultural sediments into layers, or strata.
The master stratigraphy is a vertical section against which the archaeologist plots all artifacts, features, soil and pollen samples, and radiocarbon dates. (Some archaeologists use the term "stratification" to refer to the physical layers in a site, reserving "stratigraphy" for the analytical interpretation of the temporal and depositional evidence.)
A vertical subdivision of an excavation square that is based on natural breaks in the sediments (in terms of color, grain size, texture, hardness, or other characteristics).
Sometimes they are really thick and when they are archaeologists then dig in arbitrary levels.
The basic vertical subdivision of an excavation square; used only when easily recognizable "natural" strata are lacking or when natural strata are more than 10 centimetres thick. Digging only 5 centimetres deep to maintain control over provenience.
(Singular stratum) More or less homogeneous or gradational material, visually separable from other levels by a discrete change in the character of the material—texture, compactness, color, rock, organic content—and/or by a sharp break in the nature of deposition.
A distinct surface on which people lived.
A device that uses a beam of light bounced off a prism to determine an artifact's provenience; it is accurate to millimetres.
The device is set up on a tripod over the site's datum. After excavators input the correct data, the total station "knows" where it is on the grid system and which direction it is pointing. When an artifact is found, a glass prism is held on the artifact's location, and the total station is turned and aimed at the prism. Push a button, and the station shoots a beam of infrared light. By measuring the time it takes the light to bounce back from the prism, and by knowing its location and angle, the total station calculates and records the artifact's x, y, and z coordinates—its provenience.
This information is later downloaded to a database for mapping and analysis. Total stations take only a second and are accurate to millimetres. Can be used at distances of hundreds of meters, so that a site may need only one.
A set of techniques used to obtain precise mathematical measurements and three-dimensional data from digital photographs.
Small device used to move dry ingredients across a screen area that hand excavation may miss. Can help tie a sites provenience down to a particular level in a particular unit.
Most common is mounted on two pivoting legs. Exactly what kind of screen you use is far less important than the mesh. Many archaeologists prefer 1⁄8-inch hardware cloth, but the choice of mesh size varies with the circumstances.
The important point is that screen size affects what you recover and how fast you can recover it. Use 1⁄4-inch mesh and you can process dirt fast, but you will lose a surprising number of important objects. Use 1⁄16-inch mesh and the recovery rate goes up—but so does the time to process the dirt.
1/4 fine for large animals, 1/8 good for small mammals, and 1/16 good for very small remains.
A sieving process in which deposit is placed on a screen and the matrix washed away with hoses; essential where artifacts are expected to be small and/or difficult to find without washing. Performed when artifacts and ecofacts are very small and have high clay content/deposits which can hide finds by attaching to them. Requires lots of water.
The hand sorting of processed bulk soil samples for minute artifacts and ecofacts.
The use of fluid suspension to recover tiny burned plant remains and bone fragments from archaeological sites.
A technique that is standard at most excavations. Several procedures exist for floating archaeological samples, but all are based on the same principle: Dirt doesn't float, but carbonized plant remains do (as well as things like insect body parts and fish scales). With this technique, archaeologists can float most burned plant remains out of samples of archaeologically recovered dirt.
Not an expensive or even a time-consuming process. Techniques can (and should) be fitted to the local requirements. One person could process dozens
of samples each day. Some elaborate power-driven
machines are equipped with aeration devices and use
deflocculants or chemicals to remove sediment that
might adhere to and sink carbonized plant remains.
The technology is available to fit any budget.
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